Brilliant things to do in London in December 2021

Zoe Gunn

1 December 2021

Whether you’re looking for full-on festivity or just want to escape the seasonal onslaught, there’s something going on in the capital for everyone this month

1 December 2021 | Zoe Gunn

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t will come as no surprise to any long-term resident that London comes alive in December. As the lights go up and the capital’s luxury hotels fill with glittering Christmas trees, seemingly every bar, restaurant and boutique in the city is also hosting its own drinks party, special shopping event or collaborative pop-up. And, after last year’s washout, we’re not complaining.

We’ve scouted out some of the best festive events in London in December 2021. Plus, because there is such as thing as too much Christmas, a few which have absolutely nothing to do with Santa or sleigh bells.

The culture: The Nutcracker and Changing Lanes by David Yarrow

For many, a trip to see The Nutcracker is an annual festive tradition and, after performances were cancelled last year, the return of this quintessential Christmas ballet to the Royal Opera House is eagerly anticipated. Reprising the magical production created for the Royal Ballet by Peter Wright in 1984, this year will see debuts from principal dancers Mayara Magri, Anna Rose O’Sullivan, Cesar Corrales and Marcelino Sambé, while the show will also kick-off the ROH Cinema Season, being broadcast to more than 700 cinemas globally on 9 December.

If, however, you’re in need of a cultural palate cleanser, a new solo exhibition from photographer David Yarrow at the Maddox Galley in Westbourne Grove couldn’t be further from tinsel and fairy lights. Showcasing many of Yarrow’s most famous works, alongside a series of new images shot across the US and inspired by the Wild West and Hollywood, hits including American Beauty, Bonnie & Clyde and Fargo, Changing Lanes represents the photographer’s evolution from capturing the natural world to creating dramatic worlds of his own, featuring stars such as Cindy Crawford, Ciara, Cara Delevingne and Russell Wilson.

The Nutcracker runs until 8 January 2022, roh.org.uk; Changing Lanes runs until 5 January 2022, maddoxgallery.com

The workouts: Third Space Mayfair and Fabletics

If the thought of the festive indulgence that lies ahead already has your belt feeling a little tight, head on over to Mayfair’s Curzon Street where a lavish new outpost of Third Space has just opened. Promising to be the group’s most impressive yet, alongside the requisite Technogym smart equipment, Eleiko strength training centre, Wattbike zone and personal training programmes offering bespoke fitness regimes, the club will also boast a Himalayan sea salt-walled sauna, facial recognition check-in and Natural Fitness Food cafe.

Now you’ve found your new workout spot, it’s time to get kitted out. Californian activewear brand Fabletics, which was co-founded by Kate Hudson in 2013, has finally made its way across the pond with an expansive new store on Regent Street. As well as showcasing the brand’s vast array of athleisure and activewear, it will also be kitted out in Fabletics’ Omnishop technology, which is designed to help match customers with the exact piece for their sport, size and workout conditions. Say goodbye to saggy shorts and see-through leggings for good.

Third Space Mayfair is open now, membership from £245/month, thirdspace.london; Fabletics Regent Street is open now, fabletics.co.uk

The restaurants: LaLee, Carmel and Carousel

There is, arguably, no better time to debut a new culinary offering in the capital than December and, accordingly, three new openings are hoping to cash in on Londoners’ festive cheer this month. First up, The Cadogan hotel in Chelsea will welcome LaLee: a classic European fine dining eatery inspired by the life and travels of former hotel resident Lillie Langtry. Expect a menu featuring indulgent favourites, including Croque madame, lobster bisque, rum baba and tiramisu, all accompanied by a brilliant cocktail menu and 80 wines by the glass.

Over in Queen’s Park, meanwhile, Josh and Paul Katz and Mattia Bianchi (aka the team behind Berber & Q) will be opening the doors to Carmel – a relaxed all-day bar and restaurant serving the flavours of the eastern Mediterranean and north Africa. A clay oven takes centre stage in the kitchen, turning out dishes including shakshuka, blackened aubergine with smacked cucumber, seasonal flatbreads and pork chops with confit garlic, with the culinary theatre on display via an open kitchen.

Finally, the much-lauded Carousel, which built its name as a creative culinary hub hosting an ever-rotating schedule of chef residencies, will move from its original Marylebone site to a bigger venue spanning three Georgian townhouses on Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia. Co-founders Ollie and Ed Templeton are still running the show, with the restaurant to be joined by a sophisticated wine bar serving interesting wines from independent makers, alongside a menu of snacks and small plates that roam the globe for inspiration. A flexible events space for up to 150 people, plus a private dining room and fast-casual diner, will be on offer but residencies will remain the real draw, with the initial line up featuring Carl Ishikazi of Michelin-starred Sushi Sho in Stockholm, Mexican rising star Mariana Villegas and Chilean hotshot Ricardo Verdejo.

LaLee is open now, belmond.com; Carmel is open now, carmelrestaurant.co.uk; Carousel is open now, carousel-london.com

The pop-ups: Matilde Jewellery and By Rotation

London excels in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pop-up shops which, while irritating if you don’t make it on time, are also ideal for sourcing unique gifts you (literally) won’t be able to find anywhere else. Take, for example, Matilde Jewellery’s month-long residency in Soho. Representing eponymous designer Matilde Mourinho’s first experiment with bricks-and-mortar, the Ham Yard Village location offers the perfect spot for getting up close and personal with the brand’s recycled gold and lab-grown diamond creations.

Down the road in Marylebone, rental platform By Rotation is opening a holiday pop-up aimed at helping fashion lovers secure sustainable, show-stopping party looks. Offering pieces from brands such as Molby The Label, Jakke and Silvia Astore, as well as looks sourced from the wardrobes of By Rotation’s chic ambassadors, a selection of homewares and furniture curated by Studio Arva will also be available to rent (ideal if you’re hosting this festive season). There will also be a collection of second-hand pieces from Shelter, the rental proceeds from which will be donated to help tackle homelessness in the UK.

The Matilde Jewellery pop-up runs until 24 December, matildejewellery.com; The By Rotation pop-up runs until 31 December, byrotation.com

The shopping: Christmas in Chelsea

Looking to get all your Christmas gifts bought and wrapped in one fell swoop? Mark 4 December in your diary, as Chelsea is throwing a shopping extravaganza that you won’t want to miss out on. Extending across the neighbourhood, you can expect special offers, discounts and gorgeous goody bags from boutiques including Emilia Wickstead, Rixo, Space NK and Heidi Klein, while Soho Home will be hosting an exclusive cocktail masterclass. With plenty of mince pies and bubbly to keep you fuelled, be sure to revive tired legs with a complimentary horse-and-carriage ride and keep little ones entertained at the Anya Hindmarch Grotto.

Visit chelseachristmas.co.uk for the full programme. Sign up to the Sloane Street newsletter here to be the first to receive updates.

The festive events: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, The Curling Club and Blooming Haus

Still not adequately sated with mince pies and mulled wine? A trio of fantastically festive events are here to help.

Remember how we said The Nutcracker was the quintessential Christmas ballet? Well, this is so true that there are in fact two productions running in the capital simultaneously this Christmas, with the English National Ballet taking up residence at the London Coliseum with its own version. The theatre has teamed up with the nearby Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park to create an afternoon tea experience that promises to be the ultimate festive day out. Start with the hotel’s Nutcracker-themed afternoon tea, featuring ballerina-themed patisseries, before being chauffeured to the theatre to enjoy the ballet itself.

If it’s something a little more active you’re after, The Curling Club will be gliding into the courtyard at The Langham for a winter residency determined to bring this niche sport into the mainstream. Spearheaded by Olympian and Team GB skipper Eve Muirhead, the space will feature three ice rinks allowing teams of up to six to try their hand at sweeping and skating. Spectators are also welcome, with a variety of alpine-themed street food vendors, bars and live DJs surrounding the rinks to create the ultimate winter party.

Finally, if all you really want is to deck the halls in beautiful creations of your own making, Blooming Haus’ wreath-making masterclass at Bluebird Chelsea is a must. Taking place on 12 December, the luxury florist’s experts will be on hand to guide guests through the process of creating their own seasonal floral creation, while the festive cheer will be flowing with the help of Nyetimber.

The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Nutcracker experience is available from 12-31 December, from £235 per person, mandarinoriental.com; The Curling Club at The Langham is open until 20 February 2022, £180 for a team of six, hastaworld.com; Blooming Haus wreath making workshop, £80 per person, danddlondon.com

Read more: The best festive events in London